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Catholic Charities Brings Hope to Low-Income Pregnant Moms and Works to Reduce Co-Sleeping Deaths

June 27, 2014

MILWAUKEE, Wis. - According to the 2013 Fetal Infant Mortality Review, Milwaukee’s infant mortality rate is at crisis levels, due to premature births, congenital frailties, and unsafe sleeping conditions. When compared globally, Milwaukee's infant mortality rate is worse than 77 countries.

Catholic Charities is one nonprofit focused on reducing this infant mortality rate by improving the prenatal care that low-income moms receive and educating soon-to-be parents about the dangers of unsafe sleeping conditions.

According to Jessica St. Martin-Trejo, one of Milwaukee County’s Catholic Charities support coordinators, “Education is so critical when it comes to preventing co-sleeping deaths. We know so much more than we did even ten years ago about what is considered a safe sleeping environment. So if a pregnant teen asks her mom for advice in this regard, the advice she receives could be outdated and not what we consider safe by today’s standards.”

“Today, we recommend that there are no toys, bumper pads or heavy blankets left in the crib with a baby, that the baby always lay on his or her back, and that an adult never sleeps together with an infant.”

“If a soon-to-be mom doesn’t have a crib, we’ll connect her with community resources that provide discounted or free pack ‘n plays.”
Catholic Charities also makes it a priority to meet on a regular basis with low-income moms to ensure they are getting the prenatal care they need and that they are eating right so that their baby can be carried to full-term. Once the baby arrives, Catholic Charities again works to make sure that baby is breastfeeding ok or that the mom has formula for the baby to thrive.

Tracey is a new mom whose pregnancy didn’t have an easy beginning. Her boyfriend refused to accept any responsibility for the baby and left Tracey. Without her boyfriend’s income to help with rent and utilities, Tracey was soon living on the streets of Milwaukee, even though she continued working full time. She found temporary respite in a homeless shelter, but was six months pregnant and frantic with worry about her situation and the health of the baby.

Then her mom told her to call Catholic Charities. Tracey says she immediately connected with St. Martin-Trejo.

“What a difference that made. We talked about how I needed to take better care of myself for the well-being of me and my baby. I felt good to not feel so alone,” said Tracey.

Jessica also helped Tracy to enroll in the First Breath program to help her stop smoking. She then did some advocating for Tracy with the WIC office so that Tracey could be eligible for WIC and W2 assistance, making her life much easier.

With her newfound confidence, Tracey got her own smoke-free apartment and her beautiful baby girl, Miranda, was born healthy and happy.

Today, Jessica continues to make weekly home visits to Tracey and Miranda. “We talk about child development, where I am with my personal and parental goals, and Jessica is quick to answer any questions I have,” Tracey said.

“At first everything was overwhelming, but I stayed with it. Catholic Charities was there for me when it felt like I had no one.”

Fr. Dave Bergner, the executive director of Catholic Charities, says, “Last year, Catholic Charities helped a record 27,647 people, of all faiths in the 10 counties of southeastern Wisconsin, and offered over 8,410 hours of pregnancy support and adoption services throughout this area, regardless of people’s income levels.

“In addition to providing pregnancy support and adoption services, Catholic Charities also offers mental health counseling and case management. We bring hope to the poor, the frail and the vulnerable. That hope then ripples out to their families, co-workers and communities.”

People interested in supporting Catholic Charities initiatives to support those in need can visit Catholic Charities web page at www.ccmke.org. Donations are also being accepted via text by dialing 85944 and texting “Moment” to make a $10 donation that is added to their cell phone bill. Ninety-six percent of all Catholic Charities clients live under the poverty level. Catholic Charities has been serving people of all faiths in southeastern Wisconsin since 1920. For more information visit www.ccmke.org

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